Saturday, February 14, 2015

FGS and RootsTech: Thursday and Friday

On Thursday, the RootsTech part of the joint conference with FGS began.  This meant that the exhibitor hall opened!  I was ready and waiting at the entrance for the 10:00 a.m. opening because I wanted to go straight to the E-Z Photo Scan booth.  There had been lots of announcements prior to the conference about their free scanning opportunity, with the company having a goal of 100,000 photographs preserved the course of the conference.  The purpose of the promotion was to show off the capabilities of the Kodak Picture Saver Scanning System (I think I was using the PS50).  I have to say, I was extremely impressed.  Arnold Hutagalung, one of the company reps at the booth, was very helpful.  He showed me how to get started, and it was pretty smooth sailing.  I scanned almost 350 photos in half an hour!  That's all it took!  It took a little while longer to copy the files to my flash drive, and I was done.  I can't afford one of these, but I was told that a big focus of the company's marketing is FamilySearch Centers and Libraries.  I'm hoping we'll get one in Oakland.

After I retrieved my flash drive, I ran off to the far reaches of the Salt Palace for more FGS learnin'.  The outstanding session of the day was Craig Scott's talk on Civil War medical records.  When I wrote about my great-great-grandfather Cornelius Godshalk Sellers, I mentioned that he had been in the hospital twice, and I'm very interested in finding more records related to those incidents.  Craig started off his talk by warning everyone that if they would be uncomfortable seeing information about STD's, they shouldn't go anywhere near Civil War medical records.  Apparently STD's were the leading cause of men needing to go to the hospital during the war.  Craig mentioned that even George Armstrong Custer (then only a lieutenant) was treated for gonorrhea!  Craig explained things such as the levels of care men might have received, which records might mention medical information, the top two medical reasons for which men received pensions (diarrhea and dysentery), and several of the National Archives Record Groups in which records might be found.  I felt inspired, but now I need to go to Washington to do research!

The other great talk of the day was by Judy Russell, the Legal Genealogist, who spoke about federal court records and how they can be useful in family history research.  (This was scheduled as a RootsTech session, though the only discernible "tech" connection I could find was the seven URL's she listed in her resource list.)  This was the first time I have heard Judy in person, and it was fun.  She discussed which types of cases could be heard in federal courts (and which couldn't), where records are held (almost nothing is online), and who might appear in records.  Beyond the expected plaintiffs, defendants, and judges, maybe you have a relative who was a court officer, investigator, attorney, witness, juror, bondsman, or someone in Customs, the Treasury, or the FBI?  Judy also talked about how you could follow people or an issue through a case and showed some interesting examples.  One man was prosecuted for running a still, and the file had lovely photographs of the still, from several different angles no less.  An inheritance dispute between some family members (which went through the federal court because it involved people in one state and land in a second state) included photographs from childhood to old age of the deceased man who had bequeathed the land, and fantastic family information about who was related to whom and questions of the paternity of a putative grandchild.  The cases she chose to showcase issues were on polygamy in the Utah Territory, and the famous Dred Scott case.  The decisions in those cases had lasting effects and are obviously relevant to families affected by them.

The best talk I attended on Friday was also by Judy, this one on justices of the peace.  After pointing out that, while originally the position was held almost exclusively by men of high social standing, not-so-prominent men could be JP's, Judy gave several examples of historical JP's, such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin.  A couple of unexpected justices were Henry Fielding, author of Tom Jones (no, not about the genealogist), and the famed Judge Roy Bean.  We heard about the first known black American JP, Macon Bolling Allen, who was appointed in 1848 in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, and the first female American justice, Esther Hobart Morris, appointed in 1870 in Sweetwater County, Wyoming.  Judy covered the varying responsibilities of JP's, what kinds of records might exist, and tips on finding the records.  Again, most of these are not online.

The other session I found particularly useful on Friday was a computer lab on finding and using online newspapers.  Yes, I know, I am the genealogy newspaper queen of the Bay Area :), but there is always more to learn.  The focus of the class was on telling attendees about large free online newspaper collections.  (They included the Wikipedia newspaper archive page I contribute to regularly.)  A short slide presentation showed the basic process of how newspapers are digitized.  Then everyone was instructed to go to the Indiana Digital Historic Newspaper Program site, create an account, and sign in.  After that we were told to do a basic search. None of that is too exciting, right?  The useful part was when the presenters explained in detail how the system to correct mistakes in the OCR worked.  This correction system is valid in almost all Veridian newspaper databases, so I tried it with the California Digital Newspaper Collection, which I use as an example in several of my newspaper talks, so I know of some specific mistakes there.  It was interesting to see the search results change after making a correction.  The search engine no longer finds the incorrect word, but when you search for the corrected text, the results still display the incorrect OCR reading.  I'm going to be adding this to my talks.

Other cool things on Friday were scanning another batch of photos at E-Z Photo Scan (thanks again, Arnold!), meeting Eric and Karen Stroschein of the Northwest Genealogy Conference (where I am scheduled to be a speaker), doing a group photo of California Genealogical Society members here at the conference, helping at the Association of Professional Genealogists booth during lunch, getting my photo taken with Randy Seaver (because I won my RootsTech registration through his contest), and talking with Schelly Talalay Dardashti, Thomas MacEntee, and Dear Myrtle.  The only real downer was the people at the booth.  They paid to have a promotional card inserted in the registration packets, saying that there would be free blank charts and free black and white charts available.  It seems that they didn't plan adequately for the number of attendees, whether ones asking for the promised charts or printing out color charts at the booth, and the booth people got grumpy and snappish and told me there weren't going to be any more free charts.  Sorry, guys, not a good impression to make on a (former) potential customer.

The other negative was that FGS' position as red-headed stepchild meant that less attention was given to that end of the conference hall.  Not only did the containers of ice water run out and were not refilled, even the attention to maintaining the women's room was minimal, and trash overflows were common.


My other comments about the conference are here for Tuesday and Wednesday, and here for Saturday and my overall impressions.

1 comment:

  1. And I just discovered that Randy Seaver has posted our photo in his third round-up of RootsTech photos (I'm in #6):


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